Chapter 26

January 15th, 1988

It had been ten days since the attack, and it was difficult to say if things were better or worse. One the one hand, Pete was safely in custody, which meant they no longer had to be scared about leaving the ranch. Jack felt marginally safer about being on the streets, but he still didn't leave the ranch without someone else. He still wanted to be close to Ennis.

But on the other hand, he was ready to tear his hair out where Ennis was concerned. They still hadn't had sex since the night before the attack, and it was frustrating. They had jerked each other off a few times and even gone down on each other. They would make out now and then and share showers together, but Ennis would always stop short of taking things the whole way. Jack sorely missed feeling Ennis inside him, and he needed it like he needed air and water and food.

Ennis knew that the lack of actual sex was frustrating to Jack, but he was still worried about what might happen if they did it. He didn't ever want Jack to associate their consensual sex with what Pete had tried to do. Sex had always been about their love for each other, and he never wanted for them to lose sight of that. Ennis feared that if he started to enter Jack, it would cause his partner to remember the attack and panic. He wanted to hold off until he was sure that Jack could cope with it.

He entered the kitchen to find Jack making breakfast. "Hey, bud." He walked up to Jack and wrapped his arms around him, looking over his shoulder.

"Hey, cowboy," Jack replied, smiling in spite of his ire. Despite how annoyed he was at the lack of sex, he still loved Ennis and knew in his heart that Ennis was only doing it out of love and respect for his feelings. Jack reckoned that maybe he could start sending Ennis signals that he was ready for more. If that didn't work, they would have to talk. "Where are the others?"

"Still in bed, I reckon. Smelt the food, figured it was you. How are ya feelin'?"

"Alright. Gettin' better now. Back ain't hurtin' so much. Least it's all over for now." Jack had ultimately decided not to talk to Pete at the station; he simply didn't want to see the man, and didn't want to hear any excuses. He knew why Pete had done what he did, and that was it. He didn't need to hear Pete trying to explain himself, and he sure as hell didn't want an apology. Both he and Ennis just wanted the man putting away for a long time.

Ennis nodded and kissed the back of Jack's neck. "Good to hear. Let's just get through the weddin' an' the trial, an' then things are gonna get back to normal. I just hope they put him away for longer this time."

"I reckon they will, 'cos of his previous conviction. An' this time he shot me, too. So I think we ain't got nothin' to worry about."

"I hope so, Jack." He heard footsteps on the stairs but didn't let go, watching as Jack finished cooking the eggs and bacon. They then heard Lily and Ben shuffling in, talking in low voices. Lily was giggling at something Ben said.

"Oh, hey guys," she said, stopping in the doorway with Ben's arms around her from behind. She had a drunk-on-love expression on her face and she was grinning.

"Hey, you two," they replied in unison, Ennis finally letting go of Jack. He got the coffee started as Jack dished out the food. Rose walked in just as they were sitting down.

"So, are you guys goin' back to Brokeback some time, like you said?" asked Lily, looking between Ennis and Jack. They nodded.

"Yep, we're thinkin' of goin' for Valentine's," Jack replied, smiling at Ennis. "We usually go durin' the summer, but you know that last year we wanted a change. So we're gonna go next month."

"That sounds great. I can't wait 'til we start celebratin' anniversaries," she said, flicking her eyes down to her engagement ring.

Jack smiled at her. "I know. So what are we all doin' today? Me an' Ennis have gotta work, but..."

"Um...we might go an' pick up our weddin' rings from Kate. She's been holdin' 'em for the last couple weeks, an' we've been distracted, so...we might as well pick 'em up now."

Ennis nodded. "Well, you be careful. Pete's locked up, but I ain't takin' no chances with any of you."

"What are you doin' today, mama?" Jack asked, looking at Rose. She sighed.

"Goin' to the community centre. They're doin' a fundraiser for a children's charity soon an' we're goin' over ideas. I'm thinkin' of bakin' some cakes for sale."

Jack smiled; he liked that she had settled here so well. "That sounds great. Let us know if you need any help." She smiled at him and they returned to their food.

When they were finished and the others had all gone, Jack came up to Ennis and kissed him, sliding his arms around Ennis's waist. They stood there in the light shining from the window and lost themselves in each other for several moments. When they pulled apart, Ennis was holding Jack's face in both of his hands, the way that Jack liked.

"Love you darlin'," he murmured, his eyes warm and soft. Jack smiled at him, despite still feeling irked about the lack of sex. Maybe he wouldn't have to wait much longer; it felt as if they were getting closer to it every day.

"I love you too, Ennis. Always have, always will." They embraced and ran their hands over each other, feeling the familiar and well-loved muscles. Jack relaxed in his lover's arms and sent up a prayer of thanks that everything would be alright in the long run.


By the afternoon, Jack's mind kept running over the current situation regarding their sex life. He couldn't help but feel a dull ache in his gut; he missed Ennis terribly. Even though they were still together a lot of the time, and Ennis was still affectionate with him, Jack missed his lover's body. Hand jobs and blowjobs just wouldn't cut it for long. They had to talk and sort this out before next month; it would seriously damper their trip to Brokeback otherwise.

He was sat in the office, head in his hands with his elbows on the table. He was ready to have sex with Ennis again, and he needed it, if only Ennis would see that. Sending signals didn't seem to be working, so he would have to talk to his partner. He worried about what it might do to their relationship if they went for much longer without actual sex. It wasn't all that their relationship was about, but it was around half, he reckoned; more than enough to worry about if something wasn't right.

Jack looked down at his rings and sighed to himself. He would just have to bite the bullet and talk to Ennis. He was just glad that they had been together for so long, and that conversing with Ennis was a lot easier now than it used to be.

This decided, he got up and decided to go and find him. Stepping out of the building, he didn't see Ennis anywhere, but caught sight of Ben walking to the house. Jack whistled to him and strode over, seeing him stop and wait. "Hey, Ben."

"Hey. What's up? I was just gonna go get a drink, you want somethin'?"

"Uh, no thanks. You seen Ennis anywhere? I need to talk to him."

"Sure, he's in the stables muckin' out the stalls." Ben pointed and Jack nodded.

"Thanks." He headed off and into the stables. Sure enough, he could see Ennis at the end of the building, putting Firefly back into her stall. He stuck his hands in his pockets and headed towards Ennis, leaning against a nearby post and watching. "Hey, cowboy."

Ennis looked up and smiled. "Hey, darlin'. Be with ya in a sec." He got the horse secured and locked the door, walking up to Jack. They kissed and he laid a hand on Jack's hip. "What's up?"

Jack bit his lip. "We gotta talk. There's things that ain't right with us, an' I think you know what it is."

He saw a look of confusion cross Ennis's face. "Uh...I dunno. What...?"

"Ennis...you know I love you, an' I really appreciate yer support durin' all this, but...things still ain't the way they should be."

"What are you talkin' about?"

Jack looked into his eyes, his own full of heartache. "Ennis...we ain't had sex in eleven days."

Ennis realised what was causing Jack so much pain. His heart sank to hear the hurt in Jack's voice. "Oh...I was just...I didn't wanna hurt you..."

"I know you didn't. You didn't want me to start freakin' out, an' I appreciate it. But I've been ready for a few days now. I tried to send you signals, but you don't seem to..." He sighed. "I miss you, Ennis. We've slept in the same bed, even done a few things. But...it ain't enough. I need you, cowboy. I wanna make love with you." He paused to take a breath, allowing Ennis to take in what he'd said.

"Oh, darlin'...Jack, I'm so sorry." He felt ashamed with himself for how he'd been treating Jack. He thought he'd been doing the right thing, respecting Jack's feelings and keeping at a distance. But eleven days was a long time when you were used to having sex every night, or maybe even twice a day. No wonder Jack was feeling hurt. "I'm sorry. Can I...?" He moved a little closer, and Jack nodded, opening his arms.

They embraced warmly, kissing each other's necks softly and whispering words of apology and love. "It's alright, Ennis. It's okay." They pulled apart but held on, keeping their faces close.

"I'm sorry, rodeo," Ennis whispered, looking into Jack's eyes. Jack just sighed and nuzzled their noses together.

"It's okay. I know you was just doin' it 'cos you didn't want me freakin' out, an' that's okay. At first I wasn't ready, an' I'm grateful that you kept yer distance. You just...let it go on for a little too long, that's all. It hurts like hell when you won't go all the way with me. I miss bein' with you that way."

He brought their foreheads together, waiting for Ennis to speak. "I miss you too, Jack. No more puttin' it off, then." He kissed Jack gently. "How about tonight, then?"

Jack smiled. "Great. Um...how about you an' me go out for dinner tonight? Our favourite place? Then when we get back..." His eyes were sparkling at Ennis again, making him smile back.

"Sure. Can't wait to be with ya again." They kissed deeper, their arms wrapping around each other tighter. Jack felt love blazing in his heart, spreading throughout his body and burning so much that he wondered if Ennis could feel it.

"Cowboy...I love you so much. You're my best friend, an' the best partner any guy could ask for. We're always there for each other, ain't we? Ain't never gonna change."

"Nope, never. It's always been you, Jack." When they pulled apart again, they smiled and kissed a couple more times before finally breaking away. "Listen, I gotta get back to this. I'd love to just stand here an' neck with ya, but the ranch won't run itself."

Jack grinned. "I know. I've got stuff to do, too. So...we'll get back to what we was doin'. I'll let the others know we're goin' out tonight. Say about six?" Ennis nodded and they kissed again before Jack left the stables, a glow radiating throughout him that was very noticeable by anybody who saw him.


That evening, Ennis and Jack went out for dinner, as planned. While being out, they felt a lot freer and safer than before, knowing that Pete was behind bars. Both of them felt a sense of inner peace while eating at the restaurant, and Jack made some not-so-subtle hints that he was looking forward to getting home, and what they were going to do. Ennis would blush a little and smile at him, confirming that he too was looking forward to it. Jack kept running his foot up and down Ennis's leg, smiling at him in a sexy way.

When they got back, the house was silent; everybody was clearly in bed. Jack shut the door behind them and planted himself in Ennis's arms, smiling softly. They kissed a few times and Jack took his hand, leading him towards the stairs. "Come on, cowboy," he murmured. Ennis followed him willingly, his entire body yearning for Jack.

Up in their bedroom, Jack removed their hats and threw them to the chair in the corner. They usually put them on the rack downstairs by the door, but often forgot when they were headed up here. In unison, they removed their jackets and boots, eyes never wavering from each other. They had been naked together every night since before the attack, but this was different; they were about to go through what they thought of as the ultimate act of love, and were both a little nervous.

When they were naked, Jack came up close to Ennis and took his hands. "I love you, Ennis. You...you mean everythin' to me. I've been in love with you for so long, that sometimes I just know it without thinkin' on it. It's just there. But...at times like this, it all comes back to me, an' I realise just how strong I feel on you. You're my everythin'."

Ennis swallowed and looked down into his lover's eyes. "Jack...I dunno what to say. I love you so much, an' it scares me somethin' awful to think of somethin' happenin' to you. Just wanna keep ya safe...always."

Jack stroked his cheek. "Shh...let's not think on it right now. Let's just...concentrate on us, an' what we came up here to do." They broke apart and went around to their respective sides of the bed. They crawled in and shuffled close, eyes on each other once more. Jack sighed a little and leaned in, kissing Ennis and drawing his tongue out. He felt Ennis's hand rest on his hip, stroking his skin. Jack came closer, pressing himself against Ennis. "Cowboy...wanna do it...come on..."

Their lips parted and Ennis nodded. "Sure, darlin'. How you want it?"

"I wanna be on my back. I need to see you when yer inside me...need to..." He swallowed. "Make sure it's you." His eyes were full of need and Ennis understood.

"Alright. It's okay, Jack. I'm here. Whatever you need, bud. An'...maybe you should try an' keep yer eyes open as much as you can." Jack nodded and tugged at his hip.

"Come on, Ennis. I need to feel ya." Ennis rolled on top of him, and Jack welcomed the warm weight on his body. He passed the tube to Ennis, smiling a little at him. Without breaking their gaze, Ennis prepared himself for Jack and then tossed the tube back. He lifted Jack's legs and wrapped them around his waist, both of them getting into position. In just a few seconds, they would be one person and everything would be alright again.

Ennis pushed himself in, very slowly as he watched Jack's face. His eyes were full of trust and love. "It's okay...come on, Ennis..." His hands were on Ennis's back, encouraging him to keep going. "Please..."

His head fell back to the pillow as he felt Ennis complete him, in a way that nobody else ever had or would. For the first few days after the attempted attack, a part of him had associated sex with nothing but pain and an ill feeling of being forced upon. Now he was ready to be reminded of how it should be, and how it was with Ennis; full of love and respect and connection. As he looked up into Ennis's eyes, he remembered how Ennis could make him feel in these moments.

They slowly began to move together, not breaking their gaze but focusing on what they were doing. Ennis did his best to make Jack feel loved, to let him know how much he cared about him. Eventually they did tear their eyes away from each other, once Ennis thought that Jack was feeling secure enough. He nuzzled his face into Jack's neck and kissed his skin, hearing him moan softly. "Oh...cowboy..."

"It's alright, Jack...I'm here..." He rose up and kissed Jack's lips, curling his tongue around Jack's and running his hands over Jack's chest, feeling his strong muscles moving as they rocked together.

Jack wrenched his mouth away in a gasp. "Ennis...gonna come..." Ennis just kept moving, thrusting deeper and kissing Jack's neck again.

"Come on, Jack...let go...come on..."

"Ennis...Ennis...I..." Jack was trembling and the vibrations were sending shockwaves throughout Ennis's body, pushing him towards the edge too. "Kiss me..."

At the exact moment that Ennis planted his lips on Jack's, they slipped over the edge together, keeping their mouths fused together as they rode it out, ultimately sealing their promises of love and forever; to stand by each other no matter what. Their bond would never be broken; they were sure of that.

They collapsed together and finally pulled their lips apart, breathing deeply. Ennis pulled himself out and rolled off of Jack, exhaling. Jack tucked himself under Ennis's arm and sighed.

"Thanks, Ennis. I needed that."

"I know you did, I did too. I'm sure sorry about these last few days..."

"Hush now. Don't think on it, cowboy. Just...don't let it happen again, alright? No more of all that."

"Alright. Night, Jack. Love you."

Jack closed his eyes and smiled. "Night, cowboy. I love you, too."


January 16th - February 6th, 1988

Over the next three weeks, life for the residents of Brokeback Ranch returned to normal. Ennis and Jack's relationship was back to how it used to be, and they were truly happy again; this was noticed by everybody who saw them. Whenever they were seen together, Jack tended to have a smile on his face, and a look of adoration in his eyes whenever he looked at Ennis. If their friends and family didn't know any better, they would think that the two cowboys were on a honeymoon or something. Ennis, for his part, didn't seem much different on the surface, but Jack could tell. He too was happier than he had been in months, and he finally felt as if everything was going to be okay.

They talked to Greg about the upcoming trial, and it was his opinion that given Pete's previous offences and what he'd done recently, that he would be put away for a longer amount of time. This gave Ennis and Jack some reassurance that their troubles with him were over for now. There was still the issue of what might happen when he got out of jail, but Greg suggested that they could take out a restraining order against him if need be. Jack privately doubted that it would have any effect, though.

As the weeks passed, Lily talked more to her father on the phone. Based on what Ennis and Jack overheard, it became clear that things were improving all the time between them. It was getting to a point where Lily actually seemed to look forward to talking to him. This was a sharp contrast to the summer, when she'd wanted nothing to do with him.

During one bright day in late January, Ennis and Jack were sat on their hill together, side by side. Ennis had his arm around Jack's waist, and Jack was resting his head on Ennis's shoulder. Their left hands were entwined together so that their rings were touching. There was a slight breeze and it was utterly silent except for their breathing.

Jack sighed and nuzzled his face a little. "Ain't this real nice, cowboy? Sure is quiet...just the two of us..."

"Sure is, darlin'. Gotta admit, there was a time when...I thought we wouldn't never have this again. I thought that Pete might get you, an' that...I'd be left alone. Dunno what I woulda done."

"Shh...it's alright, Ennis. He didn't get me, an' we're gonna be okay. I'm right here." Jack rose up and waited until Ennis met his eyes. "Try not to think on all that, alright?"

Ennis nodded and leaned in to meet Jack's warm, soft lips, his heart blazing with love for the man in his arms. They kissed for several moments, Jack slowly laying himself back onto the blanket and pulling Ennis over him. His arms wound around Ennis's neck as he felt them both growing hard. Their hands were everywhere as they undressed each other, kissing at each other as their flesh was exposed. Ennis then extracted the lube from his jeans and slicked himself up, smiling down into Jack's face. He then gathered Jack into his arms and slid into him, moving slowly yet surely, and the next few minutes passed in a blur of love and lust, both of them thinking about nothing but each other.

As February drew nearer, the weather started to get better. Spring was well on its way and the ranch started to bloom after the cold winter. Preparations for the wedding were pretty much done, and they were all looking forward to it. Their family from further away would be arriving at the end of the month; they wanted to spend some time in the area and catch up, especially since they hadn't seen the residents of the ranch at Thanksgiving. Ennis missed his brother and sister, and he knew that they missed him. His niece Amy hadn't given birth yet, but they had enough room reserved for her and her family if they needed it. On the off-chance that Lily would invite her father, they had also reserved some room for him.

Lily and Ben went over the plans every day. More often than not, they were holed up in the office looking over everything and making calls. Everybody just left it to them, knowing that it was best to let them take care of things.

As the two of them were working in the office, Ben looked up at Lily. "Honey?"

"Yeah?"

"You decided about yer dad yet? You gonna invite him?" She bit her lip.

"I...I think I wanna. But...ain't easy to let go of that...last little bit of resentment, you know?" She sighed. "I just...I ain't sure what to do about him."

"I thought you guys was gettin' on better?" he asked, looking puzzled.

"We are, but...to invite him would...put a cap on it all, you know? Like...admittin' that I want him in my life. I mean...I thought I did, but..." She rubbed her forehead. "I know it don't make no sense, but...it's just how I'm feelin'."

"I know. Still...we've got a lot to look forward to with this weddin'. You can see Ennis's brother an' sister again. I ain't never met 'em, remember? I'd like to. An' you can see yer great aunt an' uncle again. We've got a lot of family, Lily, people who love us. We just hafta hold onto that, an' be grateful for what we have." He smiled. "I love you, Lily. An'...I reckon we'll be just fine."

She smiled back. "Love you too. You wanna take a break? Go get some fresh air?"

"Sure." They left the office in time to catch Ennis and Jack walk out of the stables and towards the barn, arms around each other. Lily smiled as she watched them, and hoped that when she and Ben were their age, they would be as happy as her uncles were now. She'd grown up seeing what true love looked like, and she hoped that one day, their children would look at them and see it for themselves.


The day after, Lily was settling herself on the sofa once more, dialling her father's number. Once or twice, she had caught herself thinking of him as her father, and she wasn't yet sure how she felt about that. Part of her felt good to have a father to talk to, but she was concerned about how far she should let him into her life. There was still something holding her back, and she wasn't sure what it was.

She was glad that things were settling down for them all now, and that they could focus on the wedding. The threat of Pete's presence in town had put a strain on all of them, and she was relieved that it was over. She knew that Ennis had been worried sick for weeks over what Pete might do to Jack, and even though things had been bad, and the torrent of abuse had hit such a level, she knew that Ennis felt better that it would be alright from now on. At least it looked like Pete would be put away for a long time.

When she finished dialling, she listened as the phone rang across the miles, wondering what he might be doing right now. After a few rings, he picked up.

"Hello?"

"Hey, it's me."

"Oh, hey Lily. How's it goin'?"

"Fine. Things are gettin' back to normal now, as much as they can."

"Good to hear. How's Jack?"

"He's alright now, both of 'em are. They talked to our lawyer; he reckons Pete could be put away for a long time for this, considerin' his previous offences as well. An' I know somethin' was off between Ennis an' Jack for a little while, but they seem okay now."

"That's good. So...just under a month until the weddin', right?" he asked, and she could hear the unasked question in his voice. She decided not to touch upon that right now.

"Yeah, that's right. The ranch is lookin' real nice right now; the weather's gettin' better. How are Bill an' Darren?"

"They're fine. They enjoyed meetin' you, an' wouldn't mind seein' you again."

"Yeah, they was real nice. I wouldn't mind seein' them again, too. So...how are things over there?"

"Alright. Been workin' a lot." It was strange; the two of them swiftly ran out of things to talk about every time one of them called the other. It was mainly about checking in with each other and exchanging news. There was still a long way to go before they would be able to progress beyond that.

"Anyway...just wanted to see how things are," Lily said, twirling the phone cord around her finger.

"Yeah. So...we'll talk again soon. Give my best to everyone over there."

"I will. Bye, Jay."

"Bye." They hung up and Lily sighed to herself, thinking. Her heart was divided in two; she thought that she wanted her father to attend her wedding, but she wondered what might happen from that point. It was very likely that he would then want to be in her life even more, and she didn't know if she was ready for that. One day she and Ben would have children, and he would be a grandfather. It was only right that he be part of their lives, given how much of an effort he was making with her now. She no longer feared that he was after money; he just wanted to know her, which is what he'd been saying all along.

She rubbed her forehead and decided to go for a walk, wondering if she would see any of the guys. When she walked out onto the back porch, she spied a few hands milling about. Those that caught her eye nodded and tipped their hats to her, and she raised a hand in greeting. She had always loved living here, and not just because of her loving guardians and family. It was a beautiful place, and even though they would have problems from time to time, she knew that for now, she didn't want to be anywhere else. She and Ben would eventually move away to find their own place, but hopefully not for a while yet.

As she looked out, she saw Jack walking out of the stables, looking a little dishevelled. She rolled her eyes, knowing that Ennis would be in the building and it was pretty clear what they'd been up to in there. Lily walked down the steps and across the grass to him. "Jack!"

He turned and smiled when he saw her. "Hey, honey." When she came up to him, he put an arm around her and kissed her cheek. "You call yer dad?"

"Yeah. It was okay. We mainly just swap news an' check up on each other..." She trailed off and Jack could hear the longing in her voice.

"What is it, Lily?"

"I just...I kinda wish it could be more. Like...we could have a real conversation about somethin'. Whenever I was in Texas or if he came here, it was the same story. We get on alright, but..."

"Maybe you just gotta give it time. Yer still buildin' bridges, remember? I know it ain't easy, but all I can say is...keep at it. It'll be worth it in the end to have a father who wants to know you." He smiled at her and she nodded.

They ended up walking around for a while, and then leaning on the fence to watch the cows grazing. Ennis found them there and joined them, leaning close to Jack and pecking his cheek, making him smile. Lily grinned to herself at this display of affection. While growing up, she had always been reassured whenever they had been like that in front of her; it let her know how stable their relationship and family was, and that it wasn't about to break in front of her eyes. It made her surer than ever that her relationship with Ben could survive, given the wonderful examples set for them.